CESC deeper in the red
Bata net loss mounts
Soota new CII president
Annapurna set to be merged with Indal
BSNL staff to work more for higher pay
Packaged foods key to ITC growth
Telecom fund to help meet VPT target

Calcutta, April 27: 
CESC Ltd, the RPG group power utility, has suffered a net loss of Rs 304 crore for the year ended March 31 compared with Rs 172 crore in the previous year—a rise of 76.74 per cent.

Net sales of the company has been marginally higher by 2.56 per cent at Rs 1,802 crore against Rs 1,757 crore in the previous year.

According to a CESC release, electricity generation during the year was higher by 29 million units. Sales for the year at 5,333 million unit was higher than the previous year by 3.3 per cent.

The average realisation for the year was, however, lower due to the adverse tariff revision award handed out by the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission, the release said.

As a result of the tariff revision, net loss jumped to Rs 304 crore despite a saving in interest cost of about Rs 11 crore, it added.

According to the release, CESC has appealed in the Calcutta High Court against the WBERC order. Based on the judgement of the high court, the results may undergo changes and, therefore, provision of deferred taxation, if any, could not be made, the company said.

During the last financial year, depreciation charges went up by Rs 12 crore. Personnel costs and spending in stores and repairs increased by nominal 5 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

For the fourth quarter of the last fiscal, the unaudited financial results show a net loss of Rs 101 crore as against Rs 34 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. The interest burden of the company has increased to Rs 97 crore from Rs 51 crore in the year-ago period.

CESC has called a meeting of its lenders on April 30 to discuss the financial condition of the company. JP Morgan has worked out a financial restructuring package of the company which will be presented before the lenders during the meeting.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Bata India Limited today reported a 39.73 per cent increase in net loss during the first quarter ended March at Rs 4.22 crore against Rs 3.02 crore during the same quarter last year.

Depressed market conditions in general, disturbances in the country and discontinuation of supplies of merchandise to erring wholesalers caused a 14.57 per cent decline in turnover which stood at Rs 143.83 crore against Rs 168.36 crore last year, the company said after a board meeting to put on record the provisional financial results of the first quarter. Total expenditure stood lower by 12.51 per cent to Rs 145.78 crore over Rs 166.63 crore in the first quarter of last year, it said.

Steps taken to improve the overall performance like launching new footwear with innovative designs every week at competitive prices, brand promotions, special thrust on school shoes and weekly mass advertisement of new arrivals started yielding results from april, the company said in a release.

Interest charges were reduced to Rs 2.09 crore from Rs 2.33 crore and depreciation charges stood lower at Rs 3.33 crore against Rs 3.38 crore.

The company has identified certain areas for improving the performance which include innovative products development, new merchandise, brand promotion, opening large format stores, strengthening distribution logistics, working capital management, cost reduction and cost control in all areas of its operations.

The company has decided to give more focus on outsourcing to remain competitive in the market.


New Delhi, April 27: 
Ashok Soota, chairman and chief executive officer of Mindtree Consulting, today took over as the president of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra, has become the vice-president of the chamber.

Soota, whose field of operation is information technology, is the first CII president from the services sector.

Meanwhile, outgoing CII president Sanjiv Goenka has exhorted the business community of the country to keep faith in their capabilities and push hard for economic reforms.

“It has been a trying year for CII, but despondency has not weighed us down. I hope CII will continue to help accelerate reforms programme especially in the power and financial sectors, thus improving the competitiveness of manufacturing," he said.

According to Goenka, the most important role of CII will be teaching its members the implications of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and organising further public debate on it.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Annapurna Foils Limited (AFL), the Hyderabad-based sick aluminium foil manufacturer, is being merged with Indian Aluminium Company (Indal) with effect from April 1 this year.

The merger of the two companies will help Indal, along with its parent Hindalco, to increase the market share in foil business to 50 per cent.

The post merger aggregate production capacity of Indal will be 13,000 tonnes per annum.

According to the merger scheme, for every 40 shares of AFL, shareholders will get one Indal share. The AFL shareholders will also be offered direct exit route by selling their holdings at Rs 2 per share.

Indal, which acquired 26.5 per cent equity stake in AFL in 1994, had increased its stake to 89.75 per cent as per terms of the order dated September 26, 2001, issued by the Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (AAIFR).

A merger scheme between AFL and Indal has been approved by the AAIFR with effect from April 1, 2002 and requisite approvals from the boards of AFL and Indal, as well as Indal shareholders have been obtained. Indal sources said the merger will strengthen the company’s position in the foils segment and provide synergy for future growth and profitability.

AFL is the largest manufacturer of aluminium foil in south India with a 4,000 TPA well equipped, modern foil plant located at Kollur in Hyderabad.

AFL’s foil products cater to a wide range of industry segments, including pharmaceuticals, processed foods, beverages, telecom cables and air conditioners.


New Delhi, April 27: 
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd employees in the group C and D category will get a pay hike of minimum Rs 1,500 a month but will have to work for a day more in a week. This decision will cost the public sector telecom company about Rs 1,000 crore.

The pay hike to the two groups, which account for more than 3 lakh employees out of BSNL’s total workforce of 5 lakh, will be given with retrospective effect from October 1, 2000.

A pay agreement was signed on Friday night by a joint committee of BSNL employees unions and the management. Sources in BSNL said: “This was one of the demands that the group C and D employees had made while being transferred from the department of telecommunications to BSNL. We have accepted their demands hoping that they will understand the compulsions of a corporate work culture. The employees will have to work six days a week from five days a week.”

The basic pay of non-executives from October 2000 under the industrial dearness allowance (IDA) pattern will be fixed at the stage corresponding to the stage they had reached under central dearness allowance scheme on September 30, 2000. Pay fixation would be on a point-to-point basis.

Net minimum increase of Rs 1,500 per month will be allowed to each employee. The ad hoc payment of Rs 1,000 per month being given to these employees since October 2000 will be adjusted against the emoluments to be incorporated in the IDA pattern. The DA (from October 2000 at 28 per cent) will be revised once in three months.

The BSNL Employees Unions had been demanding a pay scale equal to that of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. But the management had refused to accept the demand alleging that it might trigger off a demand from MTNL employees for a higher pay.

As a result, the group C and D employees of BSNL will get a salary which will be about Rs 500 less than their counterparts in MTNL. The employees in the two groups who opted for absorption in BSNL were on deemed deputation from October 2000, the day BSNL was formed. Therefore the new pay scales will be effective from October 2000.

“We had demanded hike in our salary equal to that of MTNL employees working in the same category, they too had been recruited by DoT on the same criteria and then went on deputation to MTNL and later absorbed. But we reconciled to the promise that management would reconsider our demands based on our performance,” said V.A.N Namboodri, general secretary of BSNL Employees Union.

BSNL officials said the move should help the company ward off any trouble from the most crucial part of the human resource, in telecom terms “the last mile” connectors. The company is likely to now focus on training them the new corporate culture and customer relations.

“BSNL needs them, particularly now when the mobile and other value added services are to be rolled out by the company,” said a senior official.


New Delhi, April 27: 
ITC Ltd, the Rs 8,000 crore cigarettes-to-hotels conglomerate, is planning a big push into the packaged foods and confectionery businesses with the launch of its own brand of atta, rice, suji, maida and biscuits within the next six months.

The company is also open to brand acquisitions in the foods business.

Ravi Naware, executive vice-president, ITC Limited Foods and New Business Development, said the packaged atta and confectionery brands will roll out in the next six months though the brand names have not been finalised.

“We are open to brand acquisitions in the categories of food business where we plan to operate on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

ITC Foods had recently bought the Minto brand from Candico for an undisclosed sum. Sources said that initially the packaged food products will be outsourced. The confectionery business is likely to include candies and chocolates as well, sources added.

ITC’s food business, which made its foray last year in August with its packaged gourmet food under the brand Kitchens of India is taking its products to Selfridges store in the United Kingdom.

Kitchens of India at present has dal bukhara, chicken chettinad and kundan kaliya (mutton curry) in its portfolio.

Two more vegeterian treats—dal dakshin and baingan mirch ka salan—are to be launched in India within a few days, to be followed by a sweet dish launch.


New Delhi, April 27: 
The Planning Commission is likely to ask the communications ministry to dole out the cost for village connectivity for private operators from the Telecom Development Fund.

N.K. Singh, member, Planning Commission, today said, the challenge of providing high quality connectivity, especially in the rural areas has to be met. But who will bear the cost? Telecom Development Fund can meet the cost of increasing connectivity.

The government has set a target to lay about 3,65,000 kms of optic fibre network and to generate 3,00,000 crore of investment to provide high quality services at the lowest cost. In order to achieve this changes in policy is inevitable, said Singh.

Speaking at the CII annual conference, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Group said, telecom is a show piece of India’s 10 years of reforms and this fact is acknowledged all over the world.

However, there are a few issues which are deterring telecom to be a true showpiece, said Mittal. The issue of interconnectivity, especially on long distance services, both domestic and international is one such issue.

He said that solving the issue of interconnectivity among the operators will be an incentive to bring down tariffs further.

A regulator is in place, but the regulator should intervene, he added.


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